Project Rebound aims to break the stigmas associated with incarceration

Jessica+Gonzalez%2C+Dr.+Dan+Stacy%2C+Raquel+Funches%2C+Raiyah+Harris+and+Dr.+Alan+Mobley+are+some+of+the+current+staff+members+of+Project+Rebound+SDSU.+
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Project Rebound aims to break the stigmas associated with incarceration

Jessica Gonzalez, Dr. Dan Stacy, Raquel Funches, Raiyah Harris and Dr. Alan Mobley are some of the current staff members of Project Rebound SDSU.

Jessica Gonzalez, Dr. Dan Stacy, Raquel Funches, Raiyah Harris and Dr. Alan Mobley are some of the current staff members of Project Rebound SDSU.

Courtesy of Raquel Funches

Jessica Gonzalez, Dr. Dan Stacy, Raquel Funches, Raiyah Harris and Dr. Alan Mobley are some of the current staff members of Project Rebound SDSU.

Courtesy of Raquel Funches

Courtesy of Raquel Funches

Jessica Gonzalez, Dr. Dan Stacy, Raquel Funches, Raiyah Harris and Dr. Alan Mobley are some of the current staff members of Project Rebound SDSU.

by Kayleigh Venne, Staff Writer

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San Diego State’s Project Rebound is a restorative special admissions program that aims to support previously incarcerated individuals as they transition from prison to a college setting.

The organization is currently active at eight California State University campuses, and hopes to expand to all 23 CSU’s in the future.

This is Project Rebound’s second academic year at SDSU, but it’s first year welcoming new students.

The program’s main goals are to break the stigma surrounding incarceration, to promote higher education in state prisons and to provide a safe and supportive community for previously incarcerated men and women at SDSU.

SDSU’s program consists of Project Rebound SDSU and Project Rebound Student Alliance.

Project Rebound SDSU deals specifically with the admissions process that varies by individual.

Raquel Funches, the outreach coordinator for Project Rebound SDSU, said some students apply to the university first, and then reach out to program.

However, the majority of participants contact Project Rebound first, and from there the organization makes connections with the vice president of admissions as well as the director of financial aid.

“Those are the biggest barriers that can make or break (an individual’s) acceptance,” Funches said. “We are considered a special admissions program due to the relationships that we have created with the gatekeepers at state in order to allow our participants a better opportunity to get into the university.”

Funches said that with the obstacles these individuals are facing, they may not have the opportunity to apply to SDSU without Project Rebound’s advising and financial resources.

“We actually have one student who applied to state on her own and got denied, denied, denied,” Funches said. “Eventually she was like, ‘You know, I’m giving up, I don’t think I can do it.’”

However, with the support of Project Rebound and the connections that the organization has established on campus, Funches said that the individual was accepted.

According to Funches, many of these individuals have been incarcerated for decades at a time, and the terminology on college applications has completely changed by the time they are released. This greatly hinders their ability to apply, and this is where Project Rebound steps in.

Once an individual is accepted to the university, the Project Rebound Student Alliance provides continuous support and serves as a network for members.

Funches said participants don’t have to feel shy about their background. Through tutoring and mentoring, the student alliance allows its participants to feel comfortable about their past in a safe, established organization.

Llewelyn Labio is Project Rebound’s campus services liaison. She is both a staff member and participant within the organization, and serves as a mentor for new students, as she was previously incarcerated herself.

“I have been previously incarcerated,” Labio said. “I immediately went back to school, and since then I have gotten my associate degree, my bachelor’s degree, and now I am going to graduate with my master’s and I am about to apply to Ph.D. programs.”

She said that last year, Dr. Alan Mobley, associate professor of public affairs and criminal justice, acquired state funding to get Project Rebound started at SDSU.

“We are trying to make (Project Rebound) official here, and we don’t want it to leave,” Labio said.

She said that she has been out of prison for a while now, so Project Rebound did not exist for her when she first arrived at SDSU.

She reached out to Project Rebound once she was at state and said she received immense support from the organization.

Labio said that at first she felt like she did not belong, however Project Rebound changed that.

“I question my education here and I question lots of things,” Labio said. “But at the same time, when I come here and I see my Project Rebound family, I don’t question anymore. I belong here just like anybody else.”

As a staff member, Labio assists participants by helping them to acquire whatever resources they may need to excel. She also helps to increase Project Rebound’s presence as a student organization on campus.

Labio said it feels extremely rewarding to give back to the new members that come in and that it is a cycle of both giving and compassion.

As an advisor in the communications department, Labio meets with students frequently. During one of these occasions, she made an unexpected connection.

“One of our participants came to see me in the (communications) department, and I did not know who she was,” she said. “For some reason I felt like, why is she speaking my language?”

During their conversation, Labio shared that her thesis was about incarceration. The student was working on the same thesis and had also been incarcerated.

During this conversation, Labio said that the two instantly bonded.

It is because of connections like these that Funches believes it is so important to have staff members like Labio within the organization.

“I have not been formerly incarcerated, so I cannot provide them that type of comfort because I have never stepped foot in their shoes,” Funches said. “I feel like having someone like Llewelyn as both staff and participant is a benefit for our students who are not only starting at the university level, but who are just now getting out of prison.”

As a mentor, Labio is able to provide a certain type of sympathy because she has been where these participants have been.

She understands the sense of guilt that individuals may feel when leaving behind friendships, and she empathizes with the fact that individuals may feel as though their identity is torn upon being released.

Labio admits that there is a stigma often associated with incarceration.

“If I walk into a room, you’re not going to know that (I was incarcerated),” Labio said. “However, if I apply on a job application, you will. That hinders me from really pursuing what I want to do because I technically might be rejected no matter how much education I get.”

Labio said that the stigma surrounding incarceration produces many obstacles that prevents individuals from moving forward in their education.

“If the stigma is stronger than what you pursue, you’re not going to move forward,” she said.

Project Rebound wants to break this stigma.

Labio believes that what makes her a better citizen is the fact that she has been able to thrive.

There are currently 11 participants in the Project Rebound program.

The members meet weekly in the Center of Intercultural Relations. Meetings are not open to the public to maintain the safe and confidential space for members.

The organization expects to expand throughout the semester and plans to host various events for members to participate in as it grows.

“Stay tuned for events that will showcase incarceration, the prison system and that will have the community involved,” Labio said. “When (people) see this, please come support.”

To get involved with or to learn more about Project Rebound, visit their Facebook page or email Rachel Funches at projectrebound@sdsu.edu.

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